Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Pop Star and Husband "Lose" In Albany

I would love to pay a thousand bucks to live in my two-bedroom apartment. It would really help me better make ends meet.

Rent control laws, and the undermining rent-stabilization laws that followed, were designed to ensure that New York would be affordable for all people, including those needed to wash all the floors, and drive the buses, and type the letters, and buy a beer at the clubs.

In post-Reagan America, the middle-class was convinced that laws like rent control (and services like health care and welfare and food assistance) only helped the rich and since the poor were not benefiting, the laws should be eliminated.

Myriad stories appeared (and sometimes still appear) in the press about welfare queens, and well-to-do people who take advantage (and often abuse) the few helpful laws that remain on the books. Most of these people then avoid punishment, or win wonderful victories in the court, because they can actually afford a legal team.

These stories help to complete the total undermining of laws designed to protect the poor.

Sadly, there is a heart-wrenching story about the evils of scum landlords and mean courts and needy people.

A couple (one a pop star and the other an actor) managed to secure a 5-room apartment in a very exclusive and historic Upper West Side building for $3,250 per month. Securing an apartment like this at any price is fantastic!

A few years into their lease, they realized they had been duped and the lease under which they were paying a standard New York City rent was illegal and they were actually in a rent-control apartment!

They had the good fortune of affording lawyers, and did what everyone in that position should do: they sued to have the lease terminated and rewritten based on the legal rent allowed. They won! A dramatic victory for the rent-control movement.

Anyone who can afford to right a wrong should do it, and they should stand in the glory of their success and bask in the warm light of knowing they've done the right thing.

The standard equation designed by the New York State housing department for determining the rent of apartments illegally removed from control and/or stabilization was applied to the original rent-controlled figure and the government, representing the taxpayers, determined that the rent for this spectacular apartment should be a thousand bucks!

What a windfall! A fantastic victory for everyone but the scum landlord. A victory for the couple, a victory for the City, a victory for the poor.

Things then took a bad turn.

Both sides appealed.

The landlord automatically appealed the verdict, as all losing parties do. That is their prerogative. The landlords are scum and one would expect no less.

From what I understand this irked the previously victorious couple and they appealed saying that the thousand bucks was still too high! They want to pay the original rent-controlled price of $508.


From what others have told me, their appeal seems based on resentment against the landlord's appeal, not any desire to do the right thing (since the right thing had already been done by them).

Fortunately, another great victory for the taxpayers ensued when New York's highest court told the couple to piss-off! I guess judges can see unadulterated avarice when it appears in the grey suits of a legal team. The couple who could have been champions of fairness and paragons of the moral high-ground, lowered themselves to the same level as the scum landlords.

The court reaffirmed that the $989 rent offered to them by the working people of New York State was the perfectly legal rent due.

So, the couple, after missing the opportunity to be heroes for the little guy, will bitterly pay less for a luxury apartment than most working-poor pay for a tenement slum.

These people of privilege will have to scrape by paying deeply reduced rent (but not reduced enough for them). This is America: if you can afford a good lawyer then you deserve the best; if you can't afford a good lawyer then too bad! If you're well-off and you can manipulate the law, then you are deemed a success.

Be certain to send them congratulations! Sure hope they'll make ends meet.


This is a very confusing issue, and the media does not know how to report this, so it doesn't surprise me that many are unsure if they should defend the couple.

"Girls Just Want a Bargain Apartment? Court Favors [Pop Star]," reports the New York Times

"[Pop Star] Wins Rent Reduction," reports KGET-TV

"[Pop Star] must pay up," reports News24

"[Pop Star] WINS RENT REDUCTION," reports Contactmusic

"[Pop Star] loses rent lawsuit," reports the Chicago Tribune

"[Pop Star] Loses Bid for Cheap Rent," reports E! Online

"[Pop Star] Loses Bid for Cheap Rent," reports New York Newsday


So, nobody can tell us clearly if the couple won or lost, and they are remaining suspiciously silent about the case (their apologists call it 'private'). So, you must draw your own conclusions.

My conclusion: the losers are the taxpayers and the rent-control movement. But, nobody cares about them anymore.

Dick Mac Recommends:

Lessons from Deregulation
Alfred E. Kahn

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